The commentary of the cover

Jesus, the New Moses by Pierre-Marie Dumont

Lorenzo Monaco (“the Monk”), a Benedictine of the Monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli and a teacher of Fra Angelico in Florence, was the most brilliant exponent of the final flowering of International Gothic art at the moment when the first seeds of the Renaissance were germinating within it. Taking inspiration from the sculptures of Donatello, around 1410 he painted a series of typological “portraits” of the great personages of the Old Testament in their role as prophetic prefigurements of the Christ to come. Four have been conserved (at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York): Noah holding the ark, Abraham with Isaac, David playing the lyre, and Moses presenting the tablets of the Law, which illustrates the cover of your Magnificat.

Addressing the people of Israel, Moses had prophesied: A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to him you shall listen (Dt 18:15). The Evangelists, particularly Saint Matthew, were keen to underscore the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was truly the new Moses whose coming had been foretold: Moses and Jesus were both born during the reign of an iniquitous king; both escaped a massacre of infants; both fasted for forty days in the desert before undertaking their mission. As a first sign, Moses transformed water into blood; Jesus changed water into wine, the sign of his blood poured out for us. Moses established twelve leaders of Israel and seventy elders; Jesus chose twelve Apostles and seventy disciples. Moses received the Law on a mountain; Jesus proclaimed the new and eternal Law on a mountain. Moses fed his people with manna; Jesus multiplied the loaves. Moses liberated the Hebrews from slavery; Jesus freed humanity from sin. Moses victoriously crossed the Red Sea with all his people; Jesus victoriously crossed through death with all humanity…. And yet, one essential difference remains between these two immense prophets: in the theophany at Sinai, Moses sees only God’s back, for no man may see his face and live (cf. Ex 33:8-23). But Saint John, in the Prologue of his Gospel, while also affirming that no one has ever seen God, goes on to say that the only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him (Jn 1:18). To this unheard-of Good News, Moses will himself attest on the day of the Transfiguration.

Moses (c. 1408–1410), Lorenzo Monaco (c. 1370–1425), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, N.Y. Photo: Public domain.